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The role of causal beliefs in political identity and voting





Authors / Editors

Chen S Y;Urminsky O


Publication Year



An emerging literature in psychology and political science has identified political identity as an important driver of political decisions. However, less is known about how a person’s political identity is incorporated into their broader self-concept and why it influences some people more than others. We examined the role of political identity in representations of the self-concept as one determinant of people’s political behaviors. We tested the predictions of a recent theoretical account of self-concept representation that, inspired by work on conceptual representation, emphasizes the role of causal beliefs. This account predicts that people who believe that their political identity is causally central (linked to many other features of the self-concept) will be more likely to engage in behaviors consistent with their political identity than those who believe that the same aspect is causally peripheral (linked to fewer other features). Consistent with these predictions, in a study run when political identity was particularly salient—during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election—we found that U.S. voters who believed their political party identity was more causally central (vs those who believe it was causally peripheral) were more likely to vote for their political party’s candidate. Further, in 2 studies, we found that U.K. residents who believed that their English or British national identity was more causally central were more likely to support the U.K. leaving the European Union (Brexit) than those who believed the same identities were more causally peripheral.

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